AOC Lets Awful Conservative Democrats Know She's Coming for Them

Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shut down some of her loudest ideological opponents in the Democratic Party earlier this week with a sharp performance during the Michael Cohen hearing. But according to a new Washington Post story, she also doled out some righteous fury that day to a couple dozen conservative Democrats.

Some background: On Wednesday, the House passed a major gun control bill that is sure to die in the Senate, but which laid down an important marker of the party’s priorities. Before that, however, a Republican amendment to the bill that would notify ICE when an undocumented person buys a gun was offered up and shockingly passed, due in part to the votes of 26 House Democrats—many of them members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition caucus.

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This wasn’t a trade for “bipartisanship.” Only eight Republicans voted for the final bill itself. Twenty-six Democrats just gave them a racist amendment for free. And as the Post notes, Democrats never managed to pass a “motion to recommit” amendment during the last eight years of a Republican majority in Congress; so far this year, the Democrats have already lost two.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi brushed the amendment off at the time, but behind closed doors, Democrats reportedly lost it. From the Post:

In a closed-door session, a frustrated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lashed out at about two dozen moderates and pressured them to get on board. “We are either a team or we’re not, and we have to make that decision,” Pelosi said, according to two people present but not authorized to discuss the remarks publicly.

[...]

Pelosi trained much of her closed-door frustrations on veteran lawmakers, noting that some held seats on coveted committees. “What is this?” she asked, according to the aides.

Later, when one lawmaker talked about the peril of persistently voting with party leaders on these motions, Pelosi responded that the party stood ready to help team players: “We have a massive MASH operation and, frankly, it should be there for those who have the courage to take the vote.”

But then, there was AOC:

But Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election.

Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said she told her colleagues that Democrats who side with Republicans “are putting themselves on a list.”

“She said that when activists ask her why she had to vote for a gun safety bill that also further empowers an agency that forcibly injects kids with psychotropic drugs, they’re going to want a list of names and she’s going to give it to them,” Trent said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Politico also had details from the meeting:

Inside the meeting, Ocasio-Cortez said she has “a text chain with 200 activists in her district” that she’s in constant contact with on issues facing Democrats.

[...]

“I think it is an extension of Trump’s tactics into the House, and we cannot legitimatize it and we cannot allow for it and we cannot support it,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters after the meeting.

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The conservative Democrats who voted for the bill were predictably not happy with being called out. “It’s this class of members that got elected that are the reason we have the majority,” Blue Dog co-chair Rep. Stephanie Murphy told the Post. “Many of them come from these [moderate] districts, and their promise to their constituents was that they were going to put people over politics.”

The last I checked, undocumented immigrants are people, too. There’s also a fair bit of irony in bringing up that many of the members who voted for the bill come from swing districts—i.e., they could lose their seats if they do the right thing too often—while also saying that they’re putting “people over politics.” Give me a break. Over 200 House Democrats managed to vote against this amendment; not all of them come from safe districts in New York City.

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Both Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats, the Democratic outside group that helped her get elected, have faced criticism for supporting primary challenges against moderate Democrats. But really: Why the fuck not? If these districts and the voters in them are truly as moderate or pragmatic or whatever the hell you want to call them, they should easily survive a primary challenge. Right?

Either way, conservative Democrats will continue to be an obstacle to every single good thing the Democratic left tries to do in the coming years, just like they were the last time the Democrats were in power. With friends like these, who needs an opposition party?

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